Hello, it’s me. I’m back. Sorry for the delay if you’ve been waiting. By the magic of video assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS) I was in and out of hospital within 4 days. You can read into that, that everything went smoothly, no complications or infections. In the words of my surgeon “text book surgery”. Well, I’m pleased about that then. A three fingered sized wedge of tissue has been removed from my lung, the remains were stapled back together and I was sent packing two days later. So successful that the surgeon says he wants me back in a couple of weeks to do the other side. I think there’ll be some discussion on that. Of course I want this brought to a successful end as soon as possible, but I think that’s just a little too soon.
The step from intravenous analgesia to oral is a pretty big one, and soon became noticeable once I got home. On top of recovering from the huge intrusion into my abdomen from liver surgery, I now had to cope with the puncture of the muscles surrounding my left lung. The need to avoid twisting, turning, leaning, lifting, even lounging is a full time job, and the result of getting it wrong is all too apparent and painful. Breathing, sighing, coughing even laughing carries the same risks and painful outcome as the tissue and muscle bears the strain of any movement. I think I’ve been left with just 4 incision wounds, 3 from the VATS and one from the chest drain. I’m not exactly gasping for breath, but I’m aware of the thought needed prior to any exertion and how valuable the oxygen I inhale is. I’m having to get used to the reduced volume of my left lung. The District Nursing team have again been looking after my wounds, still patched up, and still preventing me from taking the long awaited bath I crave for. There are proper medical words they use, but in short, they are still secreting horrible stuff. As they are on my back and I can’t see them, I pretty much forget about them until the nurse rips off the old dressings. No matter how much they say “sorry”, it doesn’t make it any less painful. It’s like the “sharp scratch” syndrome. The automatic phrase that precedes another attempt to get a needle into my veins. It took three people, and many attempts to get a cannula into my hand for the anaesthetic. The many attempts over many months has left the area very painful and permanently bruised, and I’m often seen grimacing in pain as I try to retrieve something from my trouser pocket without first remembering the damage to my veins on the surface of my hand . I think my left arm and hand is rapidly approaching the status of ‘no go area’ as far as future needles are concerned. To add insult to injury I came round from surgery with a large dressing on my arm, covering blisters from a burn as a result of a dropped piece of equipment during surgery.
So what took me so long to update the blog? Despite it being the shortest stay in hospital so far, the recovery has been difficult and painful. My body is becoming increasingly tired. I don’t remember feeling this tired, even during radiotherapy. There have been days when even getting out of bed and getting dressed leaves me so exhausted that I’ve soon been back in bed. The few trips out I’ve made have resulted in being asleep within minutes of getting home. My red blood cell count has been at anaemic levels almost since the beginning of treatment. Even after two blood transfusions there has been no signs of recovery. I think it’s something I’ll have to address with my oncologist when I next see him.
Sadly, it takes the passing of others I have come in contact with to remind me how lucky I have been to have been to have been considered suitable for surgery. The death of someone with the same illness no longer has the same impact as it did 18 months ago. Yes of course there is sadness and compassion for their families. There is often shock, not at the fact that someone has died, but the speed at which it occurs. There is almost an inevitability as to the eventual outcome of stage 4 cancer, the odds are heavily stacked against us. But more often than not, it’s not the cancer that kills us, but the inability to deal with other infections or complications. When they wheel you into that intensive care unit, “just in case”, it makes you think whether you’ ll ever come out, and indeed whether you’ll ever know anything about it. Your perception of what is going on is deeply distorted by the treatment you are receiving.
It sounds gloomy, I know , but I have to be realistic, it happens. I don’t expect you to know that, why should you. I see it as a league table, there will always be winners, there will always be someone who drops off the bottom at the end of the season. And then there are those mid table teams that somehow manage to survive year after year. I’m not aiming for relegation.. For now I’m glad to be home, even with the aches and pains. I’ve had enough of hospitals for the time being. I’m trying to build up my energy before the next onslaught. So there is it, there’s the update. No witty comments or musical anecdotes, just the reality of how things are.